Barry McGee: Sites Unseen
Walking by the Moscone Center Garage on Third Street in downtown’s bustling Yerba Buena neighborhood, you wouldn’t know that Barry McGee, 50, is back where he belongs, on the streets of San Francisco. But as you turn the corner and head into the alleyway, you would discover one of the celebrated local artist's first large-scale public art installations in years.
Born in 1966, McGee rose to prominence as part of the Bay Area graffiti boom in the early 1980s, and later, he became a leading figure in the Mission School art movement that also included like-minded artists Margaret Kilgallen, Thomas Campbell, Chris Johanson, Clare Rojas and others. His work has been shown all over the world including the 2001 Venice Biennale, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.
A massive 60-foot mural climbs up the side of the white-washed building with kaleidoscope-like interlocking mosaic patterns and vibrant colors. Red, orange, green, tan and black all mix together to create a pop patchwork tapestry.
As you continue around the structure and head upstairs to the roof, you would find more easter eggs from the enigmatic artist and surfer in what the organizers have called a graffiti art “scavenger hunt.”
Created over several weeks and unveiled to the public on Sunday, October 9, 2016, the privately funded $3 million work is the first installation by Sites Unseen, a San Francisco-based public art project, in collaboration with ICU Art. “Sites Unseen encourages the exploration of ways in which various forms of artistic practice can transform urban public spaces. We’re looking forward to helping Bay Area artists gain more support and visibility both locally and globally,” said project director Jessica Shaefer.
Currently, Sites Unseen has plans to launch a Kickstarter to create eight more art installations in other alleyways in Yerba Buena.
Jason Black for Ello Documents.
Photography by Jeanna Penn & Stash Maleski of ICU Art, Courtesy Sites Unseen.